WORD RUNNERS, GUN RUNNERS — WHEN JOURNALISM IS A WEAPON OF WAR, JOURNALISTS ARE BOUND TO GET RICH

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

In the history of journalism in Moscow, before there were Vladimir Pozner,  Valentin Yumashev,  Derk Sauer,  Alexei Venediktov,  Margarita Simonyan,  and Vladimir Soloviev,  there was Victor Louis. He was the best known of Soviet journalists, and the richest of them by a long shot.    

According to a newly published Swiss biography, Louis’s dacha at Bakovka included a heated swimming pool under cover, a tennis court, a wine cave, and a gallery of icons and paintings.  He also had a collection of cars – Peugeot, Bentley, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Ford Mustang, Land Rover, Volvo, Rolls Royce , and a chauffeur to drive them. In photographs he displayed himself at the bar of his apartment in Moscow dressed as an English country squire – houndstooth pattern jacket, paisley pattern cravat. He sent his three sons to Eton and Oxford; his money to an account and safe deposit box at a Zurich branch of the Swiss Bank Corporation, attached to which were his Diners Club and American Express credit cards.

Louis was well known in his time;  after 1991 and the end of the Soviet Union, quite forgotten. He died in July 1992 and is buried in the elite Vagankovskoye cemetery in Moscow.

The new book by Jean-Christophe Emmenegger  reveals for the first time the hustle which Louis operated in order to earn large sums of money from the governments of the US, the UK, and Israel, and their media corporations, in exchange for materials supplied to him by the KGB, GRU, or other Soviet government agencies, with whatever purpose these suppliers were planning at the time.  Word running mostly – Central Committee documents, speeches by officials, intelligence active measures, disinformation, memoirs, book manuscripts.

Louis also ran several side-earners: the most lucrative was taking cash from Israel to buy Soviet exit visas for selected Jews whom the Israelis wanted to emigrate. Next came American media like CBS Television, Look, Time Life, and enterprising American journalists not unlike himself – Murray Gart,  Daniel Schorr – who paid him fees to fix “exclusive” meetings and interviews with senior Soviet officials. Then there was his accreditation as Moscow correspondent for the London Evening News (Evening Standard).  There may also have been a little gun-running in the record of his visits to Mozambique and Angola.

British intelligence reports – opened in this book for the first time — described Louis as a “megalomaniac” and an “egoist extremely fond of money of which he placed considerable quantities abroad.”

Naturally he shared the proceeds with the KGB men who supplied him with the goods he traded. But compared with CIA and MI6 operations like the publication of Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago, and the rigging of his Nobel Prize, the Louis hustles were cost-free to Moscow.  

Louis was nothing if not a patriotic hustler. With that combination, the likes of him have not come again.

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FOUR YEARS LATER: THE SKRIPAL CASE IS WEIRDER THAN EVER

By Matt Ehret, Montreal
https://twitter.com/ehret_matthew

While navigating through today’s propaganda-heavy world of misinformation, spin and outright creative writing which appears to have replaced conventional journalism, it is most important that two qualities are active in the mind of any truth-seeker. The first quality is the adherence to a strong top down perspective, both historic and global. This is vital in order to guide us as a sort of compass or North Star used by sailors navigating across the ocean. The second quality is a strong power of logic, memory and discernment of wheat vs. chaff to process the mountains of data that slap us in the face from all directions like sand in a desert storm.

As the fourth anniversary of the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal has arrived and as accusations of biolabs, and chemical warfare are again on people’s minds with Victoria Nuland’s recent admission of US “bioresearch facilities” spread across Ukraine, it is a useful time to take these qualities and revisit this bizarre moment of modern history which took place on a park bench in Salisbury UK. This fraud played a major role in destroying Russian relations with the west which drove the world into the currently disastrous cataclysm now unfolding.

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SERGEI & YULIA SKRIPAL – LEGAL REPRESENTATIVE APPOINTED IN LONDON IN NEW BRITISH GOVERNMENT DECEPTION OPERATION

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Lord Anthony Hughes (lead image, left), the chairman of the newly appointed inquiry into  allegations of Novichok plots and death in England in 2018, revealed on Friday that a British lawyer has been engaged to represent Sergei (centre) and Yulia Skripal (right) in the investigation he is conducting. This may mean they are alive.  It does not mean the Skripals will be allowed to appear and to answer questions freely in public.

Sergei Skripal has not been seen in public since the day of the alleged Novichok attack, March 4, 2018. He has not been heard on the telephone by family members since June 26, 2019.   Yulia Skripal was last seen in a British and US directed interview at a US bomber base  in May 2018;    her last telephone call was heard on November 20, 2020.   

Hughes’s staff and spokesman refuse to identify the Skripals’ lawyer by name.

At the London court session on March 25, Hughes was told by the counsel to the proceeding that earlier this month a letter had been received “from legal representatives of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, representing their designation as core participants in the inquiry. They had not sought interested person status in the inquest. In any event, since the terms of reference for this inquiry expressly require you to investigate the events surrounding their poisoning, we submit that their significant interest in the matters to which the inquiry relates is self evident and, accordingly, we support the that matter of core participant status, but that is all I was proposing to say about that issue.”

Hughes then read the proposed list of core participants, including the Skripals. “I designate core participant to all those listed in paragraph 14 of your written submissions and outlined to me orally just now,” he said.

An hour later Martin Smith, the solicitor to the inquiry, was asked to name the legal representative of the Skripals; he refused. Hughes, he said, “will need to designate the lawyer concerned as the Core Participants’ recognised legal representative following this hearing. When he has done so, the Inquiry will publish this information.”

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SIMPLETON’S PRIMER ON THE LONG WAR THE US AIMS TO WAGE AGAINST RUSSIA

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

In the history of the world wars, or the last century of wars in Europe, or the wars the US has waged since 1945, it has never happened that what the President of the US says, and what the head of the front-line country which the US is fighting to defend says, have mattered less than what Joseph Biden and Vladimir Zelensky say now.

The reason is that no US president running a war has ever been as incapacitated in command and control as Biden, nor as impotent among his own officials as Zelensky. Rule by crock and rule by stooge aren’t rule at all.

US public opinion polls measuring Biden’s job approval rating demonstrate that most American voters already realize this. The growing spread between American voters’ disapproval and approval of Biden’s performance since the Russian operation began on February 24 indicates also that this understanding is growing.

But this isn’t anti-war sentiment, let alone an American stop-the-war movement. At present US officials headed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken aim to fight the war to the capitulation or destruction of Russia; they will fight to the last Ukrainian to achieve this goal; they will negotiate no end-of-war terms;  they are not influenced or constrained by American public opinion or votes. Not yet.

Zelensky has declared he is in favour of negotiations to end the war; he has declared he is opposed to the terms which President Vladimir Putin and the Russian leadership have made clear, long before the war began and ever since, were the casus belli, the objectives for which they are fighting. The reason Zelensky regularly contradicts himself is that his power – his survival in office – depends on the Galician faction headquartered around Lvov, whose  only occupation is permanent warfighting, and whose only income flows from the US and the NATO alliance. They are as committed as Blinken to operating the Ukraine as a gun platform targeted at Russia; the Galicians will destroy all of eastern Ukraine as they withdraw, in order to keep firing. The Germans thought and did as much on the same battlefields eighty years ago.

Biden, Blinken, Zelensky, and the Galicians also hate Russians with more racial virulence than has ever been shown by Americans towards a European enemy in the history of American wars.

Race hatred towards Russians now far exceeds American public opinion measured towards Germans during World War I or World War II.  It is only matched, according to the US War Department’s surveys of American soldiers, by hatred towards the Japanese. During that war, six times the number of GIs polled said they “would really like to kill” a Japanese soldier as said the same for a German. When combat veterans were asked “what would you like to see happen to the Japanese and the Germans after the war”, almost one in two GIs from the Pacific theatre supported wiping out the entire Japanese nation; one in eight from the European theatre said that of Germany. During the Vietnam War, US race hatred for the Vietnamese was even less

If these lessons are true, or if the commands in Moscow and in Washington believe them, what end to the war can be negotiated short of the destruction of one side or the other?

The simpleton’s conclusion is none – there can be no end to this war unless the Ukraine is destroyed, or Russia, or Europe, or the US. How simple-minded is that?

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NEW YORK COURT REOPENS TRIAL OF LEONID LEBEDEV’S $2.7 BILLION ATTACK ON VICTOR VEKSELBERG AND LEN BLAVATNIK

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

One of the peculiarities of the NATO alliance’s sanctions war against Russian businessmen is that the biggest of Russia’s bank robbers and corporate thieves have not been targeted by the press nor by the US Treasury. Indeed, the more criminal their conduct, and the more money they have stolen from Russia, the more welcome and secure the US, British, French, and Cypriot governments have made them and their bank accounts feel.

This is known as the Lucky Luciano gambit in the current war. Originally, between 1942 and 1946 that was an agreement between the imprisoned New York mafia boss Luciano, his treasurer Meyer Lansky, and his chief mobsters Albert Anastasia and Vito Genovese to assist US military intelligence, Army and Navy operations in their invasion of Sicily; and to go on helping the US prevent the Italian left from winning the postwar elections. In return, Luciano’s imprisonment was made more comfortable, then stopped, and in 1946 he was released to live in Italy (lead image, Luciano at home in Naples in 1948).

In the new Russian deal, the terms are that the runaway robbers must publicly blame President Vladimir Putin for prosecuting them for their crimes; declare themselves in support of regime change; assist MI6 and CIA; and pay for opposition propaganda. The case of Sergei Pugachev, who stole $1 billion from the Central Bank of Russia, is the best known of these deals. Convicted in the British courts of lying and protected by asylum in France, Pugachev has been promoted by the Financial Times of London and the Murdoch media group.  His story has turned into a well-known book, and expensive out-of-court retractions.  

The case of Leonid Lebedev, robber of Russian oilfields and electricity utilities,  has been waged to failure in the London and Cyprus courts. It has just restarted in the New York state Supreme Court. New York is where Lebedev has banked his cash. It’s where he has pursued since 2014 his claim to be paid $2.7 billion for a stake in Russian oilfields for which he was paid, and signed off,  years earlier.

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SLOVENIAN PRIME MINISTER AND POLISH GOVERNMENT REPLY TO ZELENSKY MEETING REPORT WITH NEW CLAIMS – NO EVIDENCE OF KACZYNSKI’S TOOTHBRUSH

By John Helmer, Moscow & Stanislas Balcerac, Warsaw
  @bears_with

In almost a thousand years of military history, the proverb has been a reminder that an apparently tiny omission or detail overlooked on the battlefield can have ruinous consequences for the kingdom. “For want of a nail”, the saying goes, “the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe the horse was lost.” Until the end: “For want of a message the battle was lost. For want of a battle the kingdom was lost. And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.”  

The story of the Polish, Czech and Slovenian prime ministers who messaged that they had travelled to Kiev last Tuesday to meet Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky is one of these proverbials – it is missing the details which prove the meeting took place in Kiev, where they claim they went, and not in Przemysl, Poland, where the details prove they were.

In response to the first report  revealing this evidence, the Slovenian prime minister Janez Jansa told Slovenian state television RTV he had met with Zelensky on the “first floor of the presidential palace, not in the basement, but under strict security measures.”  He added that Kiev was not surrounded despite the Russian forces attacking from both the west and the east, air raid alarms, and citywide curfew after dark.

Jansa faces a national election on April 24, and over the past month he has lost his lead in the polls.   He had announced he would visit Kiev on February 24, but that visit was cancelled on March 1 because it was judged to be dangerously unsafe.     In the interval, Jansa’s SDS party dropped another two points in the election polls to the rising new opposition party, the Freedom Movement (GS).  According to N1 Info, a Balkan news platform affiliated with CNN, Jansa’s “advisers…had been in the Ukrainian capital city to prepare a meeting of PM Janez Jansa with the Ukrainian top officials, which was due to have been held on 24 February, and was cancelled [on March 1] due to the start of Russia’s invasion.”

Jansa was asked directly on Saturday to “clarify why you judged you must cancel your planned trip to Kiev on March 1 because of the security risks at the time, but judged the security risks to be less in order for you to proceed to Kiev on March 15? What lessened the security risks to you and your delegation in the interval?”  Jansa was also asked to explain “since the Slovenian Embassy in Kiev was closed and evacuated on March 15, where did you spend the evening of March 15, before your return to Poland? With whom did you have dinner that evening?”

Jansa has refused to answer. His spokesman Uros Urbanija has accused journalists asking the questions of working for the political opposition.

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WHAT HAPPENED – MORE EVIDENCE ON THE ZELENSKY SUMMIT MEETING

By John Helmer, Moscow & Stanislas Balcerac, Warsaw
  @bears_with

On Tuesday March 15, the leaders of Poland, Czech Republic, and Slovenia met the Ukrainian President, Vladimir Zelensky (lead image, right), in a room.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki (left) and Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, together with Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala and their Slovene counterpart Janez Jansa insist in unison that their meeting room was located in Kiev; that they got there by taking a 7-hour train ride from the Polish railway station of Przemysl, and that they returned the same way after 24 hours.

In yesterday’s report  we presented the evidence available at the time to indicate there was no geolocational evidence that the room was in Kiev, and that the summit meeting took place there. This account is being disputed by some sources; corroborated by others. A Warsaw government source who reviewed yesterday’s report comments: “we will probably never know the truth.”

According to another Polish source, “no head of the Polish security detail would allow the PM and the Deputy PM to travel together to a theatre of military operations. Especially after the close encounters in Georgia in 2008 when [President Lech]  Kaczynski blamed the Russian Army for shooting at him.   And if the head of the SOP [Polish State Protection Service, Służba Ochrony Państwa], allowed it, he should be fired.”

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THE ZELENSKY SUMMIT MEETING IN KIEV ON MARCH 15 WITH POLISH, CZECH AND SLOVENIAN PRIME MINISTERS WAS A FAKE DEVISED IN WARSAW – THE MEETING WAS AT PRZEMYSL, POLAND; ZELENSKY ALSO

By John Helmer, Moscow & Stanislas Balcerac, Warsaw
  @bears_with

The summit meeting of East European leaders, hosted in Kiev by Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky on March 15 was fabricated by the Polish government, with Polish secret service agents playing the part of journalists, and fake photographs of the meeting, press briefing, and train journey prepared by Zelensky’s press office.

The operation was designed by the Poles to promote their role in support of the Ukraine, the Ukrainian refugees, and in defence of Europe against Russia, and seek new European, American,  and NATO alliance funds and military equipment.

According to the Ukrainian publicity, the operation was designed to promote the appearance that Zelensky’s regime is in control of Kiev, and to accelerate their application for admission to the European Union (EU).

The Anglo-American media have reported the meeting, as announced by Petr Fiala, the Czech  prime minister, with “the aim…to express the European Union’s unequivocal support for Ukraine and its freedom and independence,”    

The result of the summit meeting, according to the Financial Times in London, was “a show of European solidarity even as Russian shelling continued on residential neighbourhoods in the Ukrainian capital. The trip by the prime ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia is the most high-profile visit to Kyiv since Russia invaded the country on February 24.”  

 “It is here, in war-torn Kyiv, that history is being made,” the Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced. “It is here that freedom fights against the world of tyranny. It is here that the future of us all hangs in the balance.”

Morawiecki and the western press were lying – there was no meeting in Kiev. Instead, the meeting was staged at the Polish rail junction town of Przemysl, 95 kilometres west of Lvov (Lviv), and 20 kms inside the Polish frontier with the Ukraine.

In a report published by the Associated Press (AP) bureau in Warsaw, “the long journey over land from Poland to Kyiv by Morawiecki, Poland’s deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski and Prime Ministers Petr Fiala of the Czech Republic and Janez Jansa of Slovenia sent the message that most of Ukraine still remains in Ukrainian hands.”  

The evidence gathered from sources in Warsaw and from analysis of the videos and photographs published on the meeting proves there was no “long journey”; no meeting in Kiev or in Lvov, the Galician region capital, which is the operating headquarters of the Ukrainian government. From the evidence provided by the Poles and also by Zelensky’s publicity staff, it is now clear that only a small part of western Ukraine remains in Ukrainian hands.  Zelensky himself is now in Polish hands.

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CHUMAKOV’S COVIVAC – UPHILL RUN FOR RUSSIA’S THIRD VACCINE

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Nothing is more certain than that wars make fortunes for gunmakers and pandemics make fortunes for vaccine makers.

It’s uncertain whether it’s the market, the politics, or the science which advances some vaccines at the expense of others.  In the 150-year history of medical markets, the Covid-19 vaccines have been fastest from the science to the money – faster and further ahead of the vaccines for measles, hepatitis, cervical cancer, and polio.  At this speed, profit and share price have done most of the talking, followed by the politics of regulator approval. It’s too soon for science to measure and report the long-term benefit versus harm of these Covid-19 vaccines, especially the genetic engineering types known as messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA).  

After two years of the coronavirus, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports there are 148 vaccines currently under clinical testing.   It’s quite late for most of them to make back their cost, let alone earn super profits.

The US has developed two of the vaccines, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson (Janssen), and with German science, produced and marketed a third, Pfizer-BioNTech. China has developed and marketed three major vaccines – Sinopharm, CoronaVac, Convidecia – and several minor ones.  India has produced more than three, as have Cuba and Iran. Turkey, Kazakhstan, and the UK have produced one each; the last of them, Oxford-Astra-Zeneca is the runner-up to Pfizer in  reach worldwide.  France’s Sanofi has produced one, but it has yet to reach market.  

Russia has produced three Covid-19 vaccines – Sputnik (Sputnik V and Sputnik Lite), EpiVacCorona, and CoviVac.  

Vaccine market entry decided by national and international regulators is a measure of political and corporate power; global dosage totals are the result. Pfizer has dominated the European Union market with roughly three times the number of doses administered than all its competitors combined. In rank order after Pfizer come Moderna, Astra-Zeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Sputnik, Sinovac and Sinopharm.   In the US market, Pfizer dominates with a 59% share; Moderna with 38%; Johnson & Johnson with just 3%. Non-American vaccines have been kept out of the American market entirely. That isn’t the result of science.   

But in the world as a whole, China and India lead in the aggregate of doses; Cuba, the United Arab Emirates, and Chile lead in the number of doses administered per hundred people.  

By contrast with the global and European standards, Russians have been more resistant to vaccination and more skeptical of the science. With a dosage per hundred people of 111, the Russian vaccination rate has been half the European Union average;  a third the US rate; about equal to Honduras or Pakistan.  

In the Russian market this is the short story of CoviVac —  the vaccine which has tried to make its way against oligarch money, Moscow politics, and the paradoxical contest of one of  the most advanced vaccine science establishments in the world with one of the most coronavirus skeptical  of populations.

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THE NEWCOMER & THE NOVICHOK – NEW ENGLISH JUDGE FOUND TO INVESTIGATE THE CAUSE OF DAWN STURGESS’S DEATH AFTER THE GOVERNMENT HAS ALREADY DECIDED

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

A new judge has been appointed out of retirement by the British Government to run a public inquiry into the cause of death of Dawn Sturgess in July 2018.  He is Anthony Hughes, Lord Hughes of Ombersley, 73, who retired as a judge of the Supreme Court, the highest of the British courts, in 2018. A specialist in criminal law, he was a Court of Appeal judge between 2006 and 2013, and a High Court judge from 1997 to 2003.

The Hughes appointment was announced in the House of Commons on Thursday.  

The cause of Sturgess’s death was declared by British government officials before the medical evidence and witnesses had been examined and tested in court and in public. The government has published its conclusion on the website of the Sturgess inquest. “Dawn Sturgess was pronounced dead at Salisbury District Hospital on 8 July 2018. The post mortem indicated the cause of her death was Novichok poisoning.”  

This allegation has been part of the government’s narrative that the Russian-made nerve agent Novichok was brought to London, and then to Salisbury, by two Russian soldier assassins as part of a plot ordered by the Kremlin to kill double agent, Sergei Skripal. The attack on him on March 4, 2018, failed.

Skripal, as well as his daughter Yulia Skripal, survived, although not to tell the tale.

For four years now they have been held incommunicado by the British secret services; they may be imprisoned; they may be dead.  They have been excluded from giving any evidence in court on what happened to them. They have been prevented from contacting their family in Russia, and speaking in public and to the press.

Hughes’s appointment this week follows the controversial and unexplained replacements of two coroners investigating the chain of Novichok allegations leading to Sturgess’s death. Hughes himself was not picked for the post for several months

With an unusually modest public career record and no media reporting of his judgements over his  21-year career on the bench, Hughes appears to be about as obscure a figure as the government could have found.

However, the archive of his Court of Appeal judgements reveals that Hughes is a stickler for the criminal law rules on the inadmissibility of tainted and hearsay evidence,  and on rejecting faulty directions by judges to juries before their verdicts.  Whether Hughes has been selected for the Novichok job  because officials believe he can be counted on to stick to the official narrative, or whether his record for quashing unsafe convictions will prevail this time round is about to be tested.

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CHAOS, KAPUT OR CAPITULATION – WHO IS TAKING CONTROL OF RUSSIAN COUNTER-SANCTIONS?

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The first Moscow casualties of the US and European plan targeting President Vladimir Putin and  triggering Kremlin regime change have been revealed in the release over the past ten days of three  presidential decrees and a half-dozen implementing orders from the Russian prime ministry.  

The breaking news is that there are no casualties — but one rumour of one casualty circulated by the spokesman of the president, Dmitry Peskov, in order to deny it.

Early on Wednesday afternoon, the state news agency RIA-Novosti published the headline,  “The Kremlin knows nothing about the rumours of Nabiullina’s resignation, Peskov said.”  He was referring to the Governor of the Russian Central Bank (CBR), Elvira Nabiullina, who has been in the job since 2013.

The 10-line report went on: “’No, we don’t know about that. The president has repeatedly assessed [favourably] the work of the Central Bank,’ Peskov said, answering a question from journalists whether the Kremlin is aware of the alleged resignation of Elvira Nabiullina from the post of head of the Central Bank and how the president assesses the work of the Central Bank. Earlier, Peskov said that Putin repeatedly praised the work of the Central Bank in general and its head Elvira Nabiullina in particular.”  

Until Peskov issued this denial, there was no trace of a rumour in the Russian media that Nabiullina was thinking of resigning, or that the Kremlin had decided to remove her.

There has been active public criticism of Nabiullina’s decision to raise the Central Bank lending rate to 20%, and her apparent unpreparedness to combat the US sanctions, which have frozen more than $450 billion in Central Bank currency reserves, and cut Russia’s leading banks from the SWIFT transaction system.   

Leading the attack on Nabiullina has been Sergei Glazyev, the  former Kremlin economic adviser and now the minister in charge of macroeconomic policy at the Eurasian Economic Commission.  Glazyev has been joined by Mikhail Delyagin, an economist and State Duma deputy. They have accused Nabiullina of “aiding the enemy”.

“If our country is a sovereign state,” Delyagin said on television  on March 4, “then why is Ms. Nabiullina still the head of the Bank of Russia, and not under investigation? We have people in jail for economic crimes, and yet a person who has already caused the economy to crash in 2014 and is going to do it for the second time feels just fine at her freedom.”

What can be detected in the series of Putin decrees and orders by Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin is that a group of officials led by Mishustin, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Federal Security Service Director (FSB) Mikhail Bortnikov, have taken charge of the new scheme to restrict Russian debt repayments to creditors in countries listed as hostile. This group is known as the Commission for Control of Foreign Investments (CCFI). According to Mishustin’s order No. 431-r of March 6, 2022, Nabiullina is not a member.

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“The majority in Russia supports Putin, for them the war is a form of resistance”

Interview with Andrew Nekrasov  by Florian Rötzer,  translated from German by John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Andrei Nekrasov (lead image, left) is a Russian screenwriter and playwright, film and theatre director,  and philosopher who emigrated from Russia in 1980.

Born in St Petersburg in 1958, he studied acting and directing at the Russian State Institute of Performing Arts; literature and philosophy at the University of Paris; and film-making at the film school of Bristol University. He has written and directed plays in German in Bonn and Berlin.  

He conducted this interview in German, and declined to say where he is currently living, except that it is a “neutral country”. Here are his career credits and fifteen films.  

Florian Rötzer (right), 69, was co-founder and editor-in-chief of the online magazine Telepolis published by Heise Verlag between 1996 and 2020. Since January 2022, he has directed the online magazine, Krass & Konkret, published by Buchkomplizen and Westend Verlag.

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THE HUMAN CANNON — UKRAINIAN REFUGEES STRIKE EUROPE

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Yesterday, one hundred and forty-two thousand Ukrainians crossed the border into Poland as war refugees, according to Warsaw state television.  This is the highest daily rate since the military operations in the country escalated on February 24.

A total of 1,027,603 refugees have entered Poland from the Ukraine between February 24 and March 6, according to data of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).   The daily average is just under 103,000.

Before February, the eight-year civil war between the Kiev regime and the people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk had triggered the UNHCR calculation of 1.8 million people in “need of humanitarian assistance”, almost all of them in the people’s republic territories.    

In Polish terms, the cross-border movement in the past two weeks far exceeds the refugee flow through Turkey into Poland from the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Libya; that number  peaked between 2009 and 2015. In those years, refugee arrivals in Poland averaged 15,111 per annum, 1,300 refugees per month, 42 per day.  By 2021, the refugee number arriving in Poland had dropped to just 2,811 for the full year.  

Yesterday Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki issued an appeal to the European Union (EU) states for their help to take the refugees from Poland as soon as possible, and in the meantime pay the Polish government for the costs of refugee accommodation and assistance.  

“This is the largest migration crisis in Europe since World War II,” Morawiecki said. “We need systemic measures and Poland is taking them…Today, Poland and other Central and Eastern Europe take the greatest burden in organizing humanitarian aid…I appeal to all leaders and citizens of the European Union: this is our common cause and responsibility.”

Over the weekend the Ukrainian refugee movement to all European countries reached 1.7 million. They far exceed the peak flow of Syrian, Iraqi and Libyan refugees which the Turkish Government was sending into Europe at a rate of 150,000 per month during 2015.  Between 2015 and 2021 Turkey has been offered two tranches of €6 billion from the EU to accept and accommodate 3.5 million refugees from the bordering Arab states, and keep them from moving on to the EU.  

In the past week the Anglo-American and European media have been publicizing stories of volunteer efforts at welcoming the Ukrainian refugees. Unpublicized, however, the political and economic resistance on the part of governments, political parties, labour unions, and social media is growing rapidly. The threat of the human cannon which Turkish officials have used to bargain for EU membership and cash is now being deployed, not only by the Poles, but also in bitter recriminations between the French and British.  

Earlier this week the French Interior Minister accused the British Home Secretary of saying one thing, doing another towards the Ukrainians at Calais waiting to cross the Channel to Dover.  The British are stalling the admission of the refugees in a fashion that is “completely unsuitable” and “lacked humanity”, the Paris official said.   

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RUSSIAN OPINION POLLS SHOW SUPPORT FOR KREMLIN WAS SURGING BEFORE THE MILITARY OPERATION BEGAN – AND HAS CONTINUED

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Nationwide polls revealed brimming Russian confidence in the future and also in the political leadership of the country in the month of February, before the announcement by President Vladimir Putin of the military operation against the US plan of attack in Ukraine.  

The single largest jump in confidence in Putin and in Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin was registered in the week of February 20 to 27; that’s between Putin’s speech of February 21 announcing the US plan of attack and Russian recognition of the Donetsk (DPR) and Lugansk (LPR) people’s republics, and his speech of February 24 initiating the full-scale operation to demilitarize the Ukraine.

The first, and so far the only Russian poll to have been taken on the operation itself and published on March 5, shows  84% public support for the army, the highest level ever recorded; and 71% approval for the operation in the Ukraine. Disapproval was reported by one in five Russians, 21%.  The poll was taken by telephone last week, and was published by the All-Russian Centre for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) on March 5.  

Roughly one-half of Russians back the demilitarization objective and say they believe the military campaign aims to defend Russia and prevent the deployment of NATO bases on Ukrainian territory.  Support for the de-Nazification objective is less. One in five believes the operation is being carried out to purge the Ukrainian fascists and change the political course of the Kiev government toward Russia (19%); 18% think the goal is to protect the Russian–speaking population of the DPR and LPR.

A Boston newspaper reporter of Canadian extraction has attempted to explain away the poll results as a case of “average Russians experiencing a rally-round-the flag moment”. The reporter said he himself prefers the opinion of “thousands of mainly urban, educated Russians [who] have taken to the streets in recent days and signed petitions to express their dismay over the unprovoked attack”.   

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ON THE ECONOMIC WAR FRONT, THE NEW TRIBUTARY SYSTEM & THE RUSSIAN KOWTOW

By Olga Samofalova, translated and introduced by John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The ancient difference between the confiscation of your assets and a tax by force was the mandate of Heaven. This was the public announcement from God, transmitted through fellows wearing funny hats and costumes accompanied by drumbeats and whistles. When God wants to stick you up, they said, you’d better hand over your money or your life.

These days the rulers of the US, the European Union (EU) and Canada call this the “Rules Based Order”. That’s to say:  I make the rules, you take my orders. The meaning is still the ancient one – your money or your life.

The Chinese empire has been famous for a dress-up ceremony in which those who made the rules received the agreement of those who took the orders. It was called the kowtow. Nine kowtows were the standard,  plus expensive gifts.   The Roman empire and most of its successors, called it tributum, tribute.  Over the years, other names for it have been tax, protection money, and a gender specific form of kowtow popular in England and France called the ius primae noctis, droit de seigneur, or lord’s right.

The quaintness of the ceremony varies from place to place.  The British empire demanded its colonial peoples wave a small Union Jack in the left-hand corner of their independence flag. They also required their subject children’s pilgrimage at least once in their lives to the fence of Buckingham Palace in London for at least one performance of the Changing of the Guard.

In keeping with the times since 1945, the US empire has been more straightforward. It doesn’t require pilgrimages to the White House fence for children of tender age.  It does require you keep the US dollar in your pocket, or the local currency whose value is fixed in proportion, and whose state surpluses of taxation and pension funds must be stored in US Treasury notes, as well as the dollar.

In Russia, starting in 1991, Boris Yeltsin innovated on these measures by inviting US advisors  to run the Russian economy, which Yeltsin paid for by imposing a 100% tax on ordinary Russians’ salaries. This started the system of oligarchs whom Yeltsin allowed to dispatch and store, tax free, in the US, UK and EU as much state capital and income as they could carry off.  How that system has worked for the past thirty years, oligarch by oligarch, has been the subject of analysis here.    The effort has not gone without recognition.   

At this very moment, the oligarchs are facing a Christian tax, but it’s not the Russian one you might think they have earned.  Instead, the 100% tax is being imposed in the form of  confiscation statutes by the US, UK and EU.   This is  not economic warfare so much as the application of the principle that what the oligarchs have been doing to Russians should now be done to them, according to the Mandate of Heaven as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31. 

The Mandate of Heaven can also be found on the bottom of the US dollar note. That’s the signature line where the Treasurer of the United States and the Secretary of the Treasury promise to pay “all debts public and private”. Like other US treaty signatures, this no longer applies to  Russians, common ones, oligarchs, or the state, according to this novelty in the Rules Based Order. Russians must now sell everything in the country of value for US dollars – oil, gas, coal, uranium, aluminium, titanium, wheat, potash, urea, bank loan debts, airplane leases, etc. But  those dollars cannot be used by Russians to buy anything else. That value has been confiscated.

The response is still being formulated in Moscow. Russian government officials, members of the State Duma, the Central Bank of Russia, the General Staff, the oligarchs and their lobbyists have yet to agree. The terms of the debate are still largely secret; here was an opening shot against the Central Bank by Sergei Glazyev.

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OPERATION BARBAROSSA IN SLOW MOTION — THIS IS THE OFFENSIVE CAPACITY THE US WAS PREPARING IN THE UKRAINE UNTIL LAST WEEK

By Nikolai Storozhenko, translated and introduced by John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The US has been installing American-directed military bases in the Ukraine for stockpiling advanced weapons to strike Russia by land, sea, and air.

In these plans for attack deep across the Russian frontier, Ukraine was already a platform with the potential for nuclear battlefield operations without formal admission to the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance (NATO); without acceptance by the NATO member states; without comprehension or vote of approval by the Ukrainians themselves.  

On December 17, the Russian Foreign Ministry proposed a non-aggression treaty with the US which included explicit provisions to negotiate the withdrawal of this threat. Article 3 proposed “the Parties shall not use the territories of other States with a view to preparing or carrying out an armed attack against the other Party or other actions affecting core security interests of the other Party.” Article 4 of the pact proposed:  “The Russian Federation and all the Parties that were member States of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as of 27 May 1997, respectively, shall not deploy military forces and weaponry on the territory of any of the other States in Europe in addition to the forces stationed on that territory as of 27 May 1997.” Article 5 said: “The Parties shall refrain from deploying their armed forces and armaments, including in the framework of international organizations, military alliances or coalitions, in the areas where such deployment could be perceived by the other Party as a threat to its national security, with the exception of such deployment within the national territories of the Parties.” Articles 6 and 7 were more explicit on the deployment of nuclear weapons: “The Parties shall undertake not to deploy ground-launched intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles outside their national territories…The Parties shall refrain from deploying nuclear weapons outside their national territories.”  

The State Department reply released on February 2 dismissed each of these proposals. 

On February 19 in Munich, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky made his threat to deploy nuclear weapons on Ukrainian territory;  he expressed this as his unilateral revocation of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum although Ukraine was not a signatory of the agreement.   

“This is not empty bravado,” President Vladimir Putin responded two days later in his Donetsk and Lugansk recognition speech on February 21. The Ukraine threat to attack Russia was “a foregone conclusion, it is a matter of time”, Putin added.

It is Operation BARBAROSSA, the code name of the German invasion of 1941,  in slow-motion.

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AFTERSHOCK OF NORD STREAM EXPLOSIONS RUMBLES WARSAW — POLISH POLITICIANS GO “NUTTERS”

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The Polish government in Warsaw, facing re-election in less than a year, wants all the credit from Washington for their joint operation to sabotage the Nord Stream gas pipelines on the Baltic seabed.

It also wants to intimidate the German chancellor in Berlin, and deter both American and German officials from plotting a takeover by the Polish opposition party, Civic Platform, next year.

Blaming the Russians for the attack is their cover story. Attacking anyone who doesn’t believe it, including Poles and Germans, Warsaw officials and their supporting media claim they are dupes or agents of Russian disinformation.

Their rivals, Civic Platform (PO) politicians trailing the PiS in the polls by seven percentage points,   want Polish voters to think that no credit for the Nord Stream attack should be earned by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party. They also want to divert  the Russian counter-attack from Warsaw to Washington.

“Thank you USA” was the first Polish political declaration tweeted hours after the blasts by Radoslaw Sikorski (lead image, left), the PO’s former defence and foreign minister, now a European Parliament deputy. In support and justification,  his old friend and PO ministerial colleague, Roman Giertych, warned Sikorski’s critics: “Would you nutters prefer that the Russians find us guilty?”

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THE BORNHOLM BLOW-UP REPEATS THE BORNHOLM BASH — POLAND ATTACKS GERMANY AND BLAMES RUSSIA

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The military operation on Monday night which fired munitions to blow holes in the Nord Stream I and Nord Stream II pipelines on the Baltic Sea floor, near Bornholm Island,  was executed by the Polish Navy and special forces.

It was aided by the Danish and Swedish military; planned and coordinated with US intelligence and technical support; and approved by the Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

The operation is a repeat of the Bornholm Bash operation of April 2021, which attempted to sabotage Russian vessels laying the gas pipes, but ended in ignominious retreat by the Polish forces. That was a direct attack on Russia. This time the attack is targeting the Germans, especially the business and union lobby and the East German voters, with a scheme to blame Moscow for the troubles they already have — and their troubles to come with winter.

Morawiecki is bluffing. “It is a very strange coincidence,” he has announced, “that on the same day that the Baltic Gas Pipeline  opens, someone is most likely committing an act of sabotage. This shows what means the Russians can resort to in order to destabilize Europe. They are to blame for the very high gas prices”.   The truth bubbling up from the seabed at Bornholm is the opposite of what Morawiecki says.

But the political value to Morawiecki, already running for the Polish election in eleven months’ time, is his government’s claim to have solved all of Poland’s needs for gas and electricity through the winter — when he knows that won’t come true.  

Inaugurating the 21-year old Baltic Pipe project from the Norwegian and Danish gas networks, Morawiecki announced: “This gas pipeline is the end of the era of dependence on Russian gas. It is also a gas pipeline of security, sovereignty and freedom not only for Polish, but in the future, also for others…[Opposition Civic Platform leader Donald] Tusk’s government preferred Russian gas. They wanted to conclude a deal with the Russians even by 2045…thanks to the Baltic Pipe, extraction from Polish deposits,  LNG supply from the USA and Qatar, as well as interconnection with its neighbours, Poland is now secured in terms of gas supplies.”

Civic Platform’s former defence and foreign minister Radek Sikorski also celebrated the Bornholm Blow-up. “As we say in Polish, a small thing, but so much joy”.  “Thank you USA,” Sikorski added,   diverting the credit for the operation, away from domestic rival Morawiecki to President Joseph Biden; he had publicly threatened to sabotage the line in February.  Biden’s ambassador in Warsaw is also backing Sikorski’s Civic Platform party to replace  Morawiecki next year.  

The attack not only escalates the Polish election campaign. It also continues the Morawiecki government’s plan to attack Germany, first by reviving the reparations claim for the invasion and occupation of 1939-45;  and second, by targeting alleged German complicity, corruption,  and appeasement in the Russian scheme to rule Europe at Poland’s expense. .

“The appeasement policy towards Putin”, announced PISM, the official government think tank in Warsaw in June,  “is part of an American attempt to free itself from its obligations of maintaining peace in Europe. The bargain is that Americans will allow Putin to finish building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in exchange for Putin’s commitment not use it to blackmail Eastern Europe. Sounds convincing? Sounds like something you heard before? It’s not without reason that Winston Churchill commented on the American decision-making process: ‘Americans can always be trusted to do the right thing, once all other possibilities have been exhausted.’ However, by pursuing such a policy now, the Biden administration takes even more responsibility for the security of Europe, including Ukraine, which is the stake for subsequent American mistakes.”

“Where does this place Poland? Almost 18 years ago the Federal Republic of Germany, our European ally, decided to prioritize its own business interests with Putin’s Russia over solidarity and cooperation with allies in Central Europe. It was a wrong decision to make and all Polish governments – regardless of political differences – communicated this clearly and forcefully to Berlin. But since Putin succeeded in corrupting the German elite and already decided to pay the price of infamy, ignoring the Polish objections was the only strategy Germany was left with.”

The explosions at Bornholm are the new Polish strike for war in Europe against Chancellor Olaf Scholz. So far the Chancellery in Berlin is silent, tellingly.

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LEMONS, MIMOSAS, AND STALIN’S SHOVEL

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The only Russian leader in a thousand years who was a genuine gardener and who allowed himself to be recorded with a shovel in his hand was Joseph Stalin (lead image, mid-1930s). Compared to Stalin, the honouring of the new British king Charles III as a gardener pales into imitativeness and pretension.   

Stalin cultivated lemon trees and flowering mimosas at his Gagra dacha  by the Black Sea in Abkhazia.  Growing mimosas (acacias) is tricky. No plantsman serving the monarchs in London or at Versailles has made a go of it in four hundred years. Even in the most favourable climates, mimosas – there are almost six hundred varieties of them — are short-lived. They can revive after bushfires; they can go into sudden death for no apparent reason. Russians know nothing of this – they love them for their blossom and scent, and give bouquets of them to celebrate the arrival of spring.

Stalin didn’t attempt the near-impossible, to grow lemons and other fruit in the Moscow climate. That was the sort of thing which the Kremlin noblemen did to impress the tsar and compete in conspicuous affluence with each other. At Kuskovo, now in the eastern district of Moscow, Count Pyotr Sheremetyev built a heated orangerie between 1761 and 1762, where he protected his lemons, pomegranates, peaches, olives, and almonds, baskets of which he would present in mid-winter to the Empress Catherine the Great and many others. The spade work was done by serfs. Sheremetyev beat the French king Louis XIV to the punch – his first orangerie at Versailles wasn’t built until 1763.

Stalin also had a dacha at Kuskovo But he cultivated his lemons and mimosas seventeen hundred  kilometres to the south where they reminded him of home in Georgia. Doing his own spade work wasn’t Stalin showing off, as Charles III does in his gardens, like Louis XIV before him. Stalin’s spade work was what he had done in his youth. It also illustrated his message – “I’m showing you how to work”, he would tell visitors surprised to see him with the shovel.  As to his mimosas, Stalin’s Abkhazian confidante, Akaki Mgeladze, claimed in his memoirs that Stalin intended them as another lesson. “How Muscovites love mimosas, they stand in queues for them” he reportedly told him.  “Think how to grow more to make the Muscovites happy!”

In the new war with the US and its allies in Europe, Stalin’s lessons of the shovel and the mimosas are being re-learned in conditions which Stalin never knew – how to fight the war for survival and at the same time keep everyone happy with flowers on the dining table.

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AND THEN THERE WERE NONE

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Agatha Christie’s whodunit entitled And Then There Were None – the concluding words of the children’s counting rhyme — is reputed to be the world’s best-selling mystery story.    

There’s no mystery now about the war of Europe and North America against Russia; it is the continuation of Germany’s war of 1939-45 and the war aims of the General Staff in Washington since 1943. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (left) and President Vladimir Putin (right) both said it plainly enough this week.

There is also no mystery in the decision-making in Moscow of the President and the Defense Minister, the General Staff, and the others; it is the continuation of the Stavka of 1941-45.  

Just because there is no mystery about this, it doesn’t follow that it should be reported publicly, debated in the State Duma, speculated and advertised by bloggers, podcasters, and twitterers.  In war what should not be said cannot be said. When the war ends, then there will be none.  

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RUSSIANS RAISE THEIR GLASSES – THE TOAST IS TO BEATING THE BLOCKADE OF MOSCOW



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Alas and alack for the Berlin Blockade of 1948-49 (Berliner Luftbrücke): those were the days when the Germans waved their salutes against the unification of Germany demilitarised and denazified; and cheered instead for their alliance with the US and British armies to fight another seventy years of war in order to achieve what they and Adolf Hitler hadn’t managed, but which they now hope to achieve under  Olaf Scholtz — the defeat of the Russian Army and the destruction of Russia.

How little the Germans have changed.

But alas and alack — the Blockade now is the one they and the NATO armies aim to enforce against Russia. “We are drawing up a new National Security Strategy,” according to Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. “We are taking even the most severe scenarios seriously.”  By severe Baerbock means nuclear. The new German generation — she has also declared “now these grandparents, mothers, fathers and their children sit at the kitchen table and discuss rearmament.”  

So, for Russia to survive the continuation of this war, the Germans and their army must be fought and defeated again. That’s the toast of Russian people as they salute the intrepid flyers who are beating the Moscow Blockade.  

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THE INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY GOES TO WAR — GORILLA RADIO GOES NUCLEAR

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Last week the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) board of governors voted to go to war with Russia by a vote of 26 member countries against 9.

China, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Senegal and South Africa voted against war with Russia.  

The IAEA Secretary-General Rafael Grossi (lead image, left) has refused to tell the press whether a simple majority of votes (18) or a super-majority of two-thirds (23) was required by the agency charter for the vote; he also wouldn’t say which countries voted for or against. The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres then covered up for what had happened by telling the press: “I believe that [IAEA’s] independence that exists and must be preserved is essential. The IAEA cannot be the instrument of parties against other parties.” The IAEA vote for war made a liar of Guterres.

In the IAEA’s 65-year history, Resolution Number 58, the war vote of September 15, 2022,  is the first time the agency has taken one side in a war between member countries when nuclear reactors have either been attacked or threatened with attack. It is also the first time the IAEA has attacked one of its member states, Russia, when its military were attempting to protect and secure a nuclear reactor from attack by another member state, the Ukraine, and its war allies, the US, NATO and the European Union states. The vote followed the first-ever IAEA inspection of a nuclear reactor while it was under active artillery fire and troop assault.

There is a first time for everything but this is the end of the IAEA. On to the scrap heap of good intentions and international treaties, the IAEA is following the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and the UN Secretary-General himself.  Listen to this discussion of the past history when the IAEA responded quite differently following the Iranian and Israeli air-bombing attacks on the Iraqi nuclear reactor known as Osirak, and later, the attacks on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons sites.

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INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY TAKES UKRAINE SIDE IN WAR IN SEPTEMBER 15 VOTE, MAKING UN SECRETARY-GENERAL GUTERRES EITHER A LIAR OR A FOOL

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) decided this week to take the side of Ukraine in the current war; blame Russia for the shelling of the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP); and issue a demand for Russia to surrender the plant to the Kiev regime “to regain full control over all nuclear facilities within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders, including the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant.”      

This is the most dramatic shift by the United Nations (UN) nuclear power regulator in the 65-year history of the organisation based in Vienna.

The terms of the IAEA Resolution Number 58, which were proposed early this week by the Polish and Canadian governors on the agency board, were known in advance by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres when he spoke by telephone with President Vladimir Putin in the late afternoon of September 14, before the vote was taken. Guterres did not reveal what he already knew would be the IAEA action the next day.  

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THE RUSSIAN SITUATION COMEDY IS NO LYING MATTER – THE JOKE IS ON THE OFFICE OF FOREIGN ASSETS CONTROL

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Never mind that King Solomon said proverbially three thousand years ago, “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”  

With seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines, Solomon realized he was the inventor of the situation comedy. If not for the sitcom as his medicine, the bodily and psychological stress Old Solly had to endure in the bedroom would have killed him long before he made it to his death bed at eighty years of age,  after ruling his kingdom for forty of them.

After the British sitcom died in the 1990s, the subsequent stress has not only killed very large numbers of ordinary people. It has culminated today in a system of rule according to which a comic king in Buckingham Palace must now manage the first prime minister in Westminster  history to be her own joke.

Even the Norwegians, the unfunniest people in Europe, have acknowledged that the only way to attract the British as tourists, was to pay John Cleese of Monty Python and Fawlty Towers to make them laugh at Norway itself.   This has been a bigger success for the locals than for the visitors, boosting the fjord boatman’s life expectancy several years ahead of the British tourist’s.  

In fact, Norwegian scientists studying a sample of 54,000 of their countrymen have proved that spending the state budget on public health and social welfare will only work effectively if the population is laughing all the way to the grave. “The cognitive component of the sense of humour is positively associated with survival from mortality related to CVD [cardio-vascular disease] and infections in women and with infection-related mortality in men” – Norwegian doctors reported in 2016. Never mind the Viking English:  the Norwegian point is the same as Solomon’s that “a sense of humour is a health-protecting cognitive coping resource” – especially if you’ve got cancer.  

The Russians understand this better than the Norwegians or the British.  Laughter is an antidote to the war propaganda coming from abroad, as Lexus and Vovan have been demonstrating.   The Russian sitcom is also surviving in its classic form to match the best of the British sitcoms, all now dead – Fawlty Towers (d. 1975), Black Adder (d. 1989), You Rang M’Lord? (d. 1988), Jeeves and Wooster (d. 1990), Oh Dr Beeching! (d.1995), and Thin Blue Line (d. 1996).

The Russian situation comedies, alive and well on TV screens and internet streaming devices across the country, are also increasingly profitable business for their production and broadcast companies – not despite the war but because of it. This has transformed the Russian media industry’s calculation of profitability by removing US and European-made films and television series, as well as advertising revenues from Nestlé, PepsiCo, Mars, and Bayer. In their place powerful  Russian video-on-demand (VOD) streaming platform companies like Yandex (KinoPoisk), MTS (Kion),  Mail.ru (VK), and Ivi (Leonid Boguslavsky, ProfMedia, Baring Vostok)  are now intensifying the competition for audience with traditional television channels and film studios for domestic audiences.  The revenue base of the VOD platforms is less vulnerable to advertisers, more dependent on telecommunications subscriptions.

Russian script writers, cameramen, actors, designers, and directors are now in shorter supply than ever before, and earning more money.  “It’s the Russian New Wave,” claims Olga Filipuk, head of media content for Yandex, the powerful leader of the new film production platforms; its  controlling shareholder and chief executive were sanctioned last year.  

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RUSSIAN AVIATION INDUSTRY CORRECTS YELTSIN YAW – BOEING, AIRBUS DITCHED



By Olga Samofalova, translated and introduced by John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

It was the American humourist Mark Twain who didn’t die in 1897 when it was reported that he had. Twain had thirteen more lively years to go.

The death of the Russian aerospace and aviation industry in the present war is proving to be an even greater exaggeration – and the life to come will be much longer. From the Russian point of view, the death which the sanctions have inflicted is that of the US, European and British offensive against the Soviet-era industry which President Boris Yeltsin (lead image, left) and his advisers encouraged from 1991.

Since 2014, when the sanctions war began, the question of what Moscow would do when the supply of original aircraft components was first threatened, then prohibited, has been answered. The answer began at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 1947 when the first  Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) or Parts Manufacturing Approval (PMA) was issued by Washington officials for aircraft parts or components meeting the airworthiness standards but manufactured by sources which were not the original suppliers.   

China has been quicker to implement this practice; Chinese state and commercial enterprises have been producing PMA components for Boeing and Airbus aircraft in the Chinese airline fleets for many years.  The Russian Transport Ministry has followed suit; in its certification process and airworthiness regulations it has used the abbreviation RMA, Cyrillic for PMA. This process has been accelerating as the sanctions war has escalated.

So has the Russian process of replacing foreign imports entirely.

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FOR WANT OF A NAIL THE KINGDOM WAS LOST – ENGLISH PATHOLOGIST GUY RUTTY FACES CHALLENGE TO THE RELIABILITY OF HIS NOVICHOK EVIDENCE



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The weakest link in the British government’s four-year long story of Russian Novichok assassination operations in the UK – prelude to the current war – is an English medical expert by the name of Guy Rutty (lead image, standing).

A government-appointed pathologist advising the Home Office, police, and county coroners, Rutty is the head of the East Midlands Forensic Pathology Unit in Leicester,  he is the author of a post-mortem report, dated November 29, 2018,  claiming that the only fatality in the history of the Novichok nerve agent (lead image, document), Dawn Sturgess, had died of Novichok poisoning on July 8, 2018. Rutty’s finding was added four months after initial post-mortem results and a coroner’s cremation certificate stopped short of confirming that Novichok had been the cause of her death.

Rutty’s Novichok finding was a state secret for more than two years. It was revealed publicly   by the second government coroner to investigate Sturgess’s death, Dame Heather Hallett, at a public hearing in London on March 30, 2021. In written evidence it was reported that “on 17th July 2018, Professor Guy Rutty MBE, a Home Office Registered Forensic Pathologist conducted an independent post-mortem examination. He was accompanied by Dr Phillip Lumb, also an independent Home Office Registered Forensic Pathologist. Professor Rutty’s Post-Mortem Report of 29th November 2018 records the cause of death as Ia Post cardiac arrest hypoxic brain injury and intracerebral haemorrhage; Ib Novichok toxicity.”  

Hallett, Rutty, Lumb, and others engaged by the government to work on the Novichok case have refused to answer questions about the post-mortem investigations which followed immediately after Sturgess’s death was reported at Salisbury District Hospital; and a cause of death report signed by the Wiltshire Country coroner David Ridley, when Sturgess’s body was released to her family for funeral and cremation on July 30, 2018.  

After another three years, Ridley was replaced as coroner in the case by Hallett in March 2021. Hallett was replaced by Lord Anthony Hughes (lead image, sitting) in March 2022.

The cause-of-death documents remain state secrets. “As you have no formal role in the inquest proceedings,” Hallett’s and Rutty’s spokesman Martin Smith said on May 17, 2021, “it would not be appropriate to provide you with the information that you have requested.” 

Since then official leaks have revealed that Rutty had been despatched by the Home Office in London to take charge of the Sturgess post-mortem, and Lumb ordered not to undertake an autopsy or draw conclusions on the cause of Sturgess’s death until Rutty arrived. Why? The sources are not saying whether the two forensic professors differed in their interpretation of the evidence; and if so, whether the published excerpt of Rutty’s report of Novichok poisoning is the full story.   

New developments in the official investigation of Sturgess’s death, now directed by Hughes, have removed the state secrecy cover for Rutty, Lumb, and other medical specialists who attended the post-mortem on July 17, 2018. The appointment by Hughes of a London lawyer, Adam Chapman, to represent Sergei and Yulia Skripal, opens these post-mortem documents to the Skripals, along with the cremation certificate, and related hospital, ambulance and laboratory records. Chapman’s role is “appropriate” – Smith’s term – for the Skripals to cross-examine Rutty and Lumb and add independent expert evidence.

Hughes’s appointment of another lawyer, Emilie Pottle (lead image, top left), to act on behalf of the three Russian military officers accused of the Novichok attack exposes this evidence to testing at the same forensic standard. According to Hughes,  it is Pottle’s “responsibility for ensuring that the inquiry takes all reasonable steps to test the  evidence connecting those Russian nationals to Ms Sturgess’s death.” Pottle’s responsibility is to  cross-examine Rutty and Lumb.

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